Gator Time!

Last night when we went to bed we were still cruising somewhere near The Bahamas.  We had packed our bags and put the large suitcases out in the corridor for the porters to take off the ship and I slept soundly.  Luckily for me, but not so fortunate for ML – she is a terrible sleeper and was well and truly awake and up and ready to get going at 5.30 – having already been awake for 2 hours (something I will never be able to understand) I say it’s lucky for me because I sleep with ear plugs which completely block out ALL noise, including the alarm that I set, therefore I would have slept right through the disembarkation process!  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

So this is what we woke to this morning.  Goodbye Caribbean – hello mainland USA!


We decided to leave behind our trivia winnings realising that there was probably not going to be much highlighting going on in the near – distant future – maybe they can go back into the winnings pool for the next set of trivia players…. it’s only just occurred to me that the team of people who put the quizzes together only need to organise one week’s worth – they can just rehash the questions again…. then I realised how boring that would be for the questioners.


Even though I have decided to never to another group tour, we had already booked the tour of the Everglades including a ride on an air boat – just like in the TV show from the 60s – Gentle Ben – remember that one?  A story about a family who lived in the Everglades in Florida.  The dad – he was a wildlife ranger, his wife was there being a 60s wife, their son, Mark and Ben a 700lb black bear who Mark raised from a cub and now they all ride around on this cool air boat in the Everglades.


So this is where the Everglades are and where we were within them.


Since the days of Gentle Ben I’ve always wanted to ride on an air boat and today was my big chance.


There were plenty of boats there as there were plenty of groups headed for this destination today.


Our Captain was Captain Debra and she was cool.  She knew a lot about The Everglades and gators and the eco system in the river.  Debra loves being an air boat captain.


She sat us right at the front so we had a great vantage point for gator spotting…


But apparently with the cool wind, it was a little cool for the gators, so they were either under the water or hiding in the thick of the reeds.  I can’t say I blame them.  It didn’t occur to us to wear jackets or long pants – so I had to purchase a sweatshirt from the gift shop – which will end up coming in handy since the next couple of days in NY are meant to have a top temp of about 12 degrees!

So no wild gators for us today.  We did see some jumping fish and some large osprey /hawk types of birds.


Now… I want you to think about what happened here in these toilet facilities and why there was a need for this sign.


Attached to the river is a wildlife rescue park which was a bit of a bonus on this tour – it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the details.  They have a resident peacock who just wandered along with the group.


They have a Gator Grill where you can try such delicacies as gator tail bites – we tried this and I can tell you that they taste exactly like frog legs.  A little like chewy chicken, but with a more sinewy texture.  Not unpleasant as long as you don’t think about it, but also not my favourite.


Then, uncomfortably, we were then introduced to some alligators (they didn’t watch us eat their cousins, don’t fret)

There were two rescue gators in this tank – Crystal, the female who was tiny and then Cannibal who was MASSIVE – and still growing!  Apparently they live for around 90 years.  Crystal had been some idiots pet and when they have been domesticated, they can’t be put back into the wild because they are too used to humans giving them food.  Cannibal hatched 57 years ago at another facility that closed down, so these people took him on.  They are alive, which is great, but they also live in a very small enclosure, which is not so great.  The guy giving the talk was really interesting – impressively so.


Alligators don’t do too much, which is why, according to Dalton, the talk giver, they don’t feature on shows like Animal Planet, etc… because they’re boring to watch.


We then got an opportunity to hold a baby gator.  I wasn’t going to, but then I took this photo – look at him with his little bucked teeth – harmless, right?


And then the lady who was holding him said – he feels just like a soft handbag which was sort of inappropriate as she was in ear’s reach of the baby, but I decided to give it a go and she was right – he was so soft and squishy, a bit like dry fish.  I’m holding him quite softly here, but in the first photo it looks like I’m squeezing him way too hard!

They also had lots of other reptiles – all rescue pets….  I mean who thought it would be a good idea to keep an 18 ft Burmese Python?  Or perhaps a buzzard? A couple of leopards? A racoon? A Bobtail Cat? A fennec fox or perhaps a kookaburra?  Most of the animals had a sad story of being abandoned, mistreated or simply given over once the idiot owners realised that the animal was nocturnal, loud or just huge and way too much work.

Apparently the owner of the kookaburra wasn’t aware it made a noise…

There wasn’t a huge amount of room at this refuge and they completely rely on donations to feed and take care of the animals, so it’s not over run with animals.  They rescued these ones and now use them as teaching animals – teaching people not to get inappropriate animals as pets.

It was a pleasant surprise addition to the end of our Royal Caribbean experience.  Now get me to New York!

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